For all we hear about women supposedly not having equal rights to men, it sure seems that in some cases, women have more rights than men.
Case in point: An Arizona court recently ruled that a woman wanting to use her ex-husband’s saved sperm to become pregnant “outweigh[ed]” the man’s desire not to become a father. Due to this court ruling, the man could also be liable for 18 years of child support.
In 2014, Ruby Torres was diagnosed with bilateral breast cancer. She was told that after chemotherapy she likely wouldn’t be able to become pregnant. She and her then-boyfriend John Terrell decided to preserve some embryos so that she might one day be able to become a mother.
The couple would eventually marry but then divorced, according to the Arizona Republic. During the divorce, Terrell wanted to make sure Torres couldn’t use the embryos to become pregnant. He brought his case to the Maricopa County Superior Court, who ruled the embryos should go to a third party. Torres appealed, and received a win on March 14.
“The trial court erred when it placed heavy weight on the parties’ inability to 'co-parent,'" Judge Jennifer B. Campbell wrote in a 2-1 decision overturning the lower court’s finding. "Nothing in the record suggests that either of them expected or intended to co-parent any offspring derived from the embryos."
Terrell, it turns out, originally declined to donate his sperm for the embryos, but changed his mind when Torres suggested she would use an ex-boyfriend’s sperm instead. The court ruled that the couple only agreed to preserve the embryos because of the potential for Torres to be unable to conceive in the future, not for the two to co-parent at some point.
In her dissenting opinion, Judge Maria Elena Cruz wrote that Torres and Terrell signed a contract when they preserved the embryos that both parents would have to provide “express, written consent” for the embryos to be used. Torres even testified acknowledging that “we did sign a contract and we agreed to these provisions.”
The court has now ignored that contract, according to Judge Cruz.
“Do contracts matter? I believe they do,” Cruz wrote. “Therefore, because the contract of these parties explicitly prohibits the outcome reached by the majority, and because it is outside our purview to reweigh the evidence, I would affirm the trial court’s judgment, or, in the alternative, remand the matter to the trial court for a new weighing of the parties’ interests.”
The Arizona Republic reports that this case caused state legislators to pass a law last year that would free further individuals in similar situations from being responsible for children conceived against their will. The Republican describes the bill as requiring “that viable embryos from a divorced couple be awarded to the parent who will allow a child to be born” but “also states the other parent has no rights or obligations.”
This, of course, won’t help Terrell, who will likely be on the hook for child support should Torres use the embryos.